A senior aide to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday gave a positive assessment of the weekend Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Sochi and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for organizing it.
Ali Hasanov, who heads a key department in the Azerbaijani presidential administration, said Putin’s “peacekeeping initiative” was primarily aimed at “restoring the ceasefire regime” in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone following one of its most serious violations in the last two decades. He said Putin put the emphasis on the conflict’s peaceful resolution and confidence-building measures in separate and trilateral meetings with Aliyev and President Serzh Sarkisian.
“As for the overall results of the Sochi negotiations, analysts believe that they can be evaluated as positive on the whole. The resumption of direct contact between the heads of state nine months after [their previous meeting] as well as meetings held in other formats will have a positive impact on the process of resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Hasanov told the official AzerTag news agency in an interview cited by other Azerbaijani media.
Sarkisian likewise sounded largely satisfied with the Sochi talks when he spoke to an Armenian TV channel later on Sunday. He said fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces will likely decrease in the coming days.
Both Aliyev and Sarkisian called for a peaceful settlement of the dispute in their opening remarks at the trilateral meeting in Sochi. Putin said he is “pleased” to hear that. Still, no progress was reported towards a framework peace accord proposed by the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the OSCE’s Minsk Group.
Azerbaijan -- Baku. Ali Hasanov, 5 March 2014
“It is clear from the Russian president’s remarks that his country … is deeply conscious of its mission in the South Caucasus -- its responsibility for peace and security there -- and understands the negative impact of a possible armed conflict between the two states, which could indirectly reflect on the entire Caucasus,” Hasanov said.
Aliyev threatened Armenia with a devastating war in dozens of short messages that were posted on his Twitter page ahead of the Sochi talks. He also blamed the Armenians for the July 31 escalation of deadly skirmishes around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Officials as well as pundits in Yerevan and Stepanakert lay the blame on the Azerbaijani side, however. They say that the much less belligerent tone of Aliyev’s public statements in Sochi resulted from heavy casualties suffered by the Azerbaijani army and Russia’s apparent desire to prevent another war for Karabakh.
“In effect, a red line was drawn for Azerbaijan, which it can’t breach,” Davit Babayan, a spokesman for Karabakh President Bako Sahakian, said, commenting on the Russian-mediated talks.
“This doesn’t mean that Aliyev will renounce destabilizing actions. But their boundaries, so to speak, have been narrowed,” Babayan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).
The Armenian Defense Ministry and the Karabakh Armenian army said on Tuesday that tension on the frontlines continued to ease overnight. They both reported a further drop in gunfire from Azerbaijani army positions. The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, for its part, alleged 16 truce violations by Armenian troops, down from 59 such cases the previous day.